The San Francisco duo Jahan, consisting of Iranian-Americans Kamran Atabai and Sarah K, blend their styles of traditional Persian music with American music traditions including rock, folk and jazz. On their last album 2016’s Triple Creek reviewer J. Simpson marveled “Listening closely to Triple Creek is a joy and a pleasure. It might even be impossible to do anything BUT, if you happen to appreciate interesting, intricate arrangements and thoughtful lyrics. Jahan's downbeat guitars and plaintiff vocals are joined by trumpet and saxophone miniatures as well as moments of pure poetry. There are even some moments of levity with outtakes of some '70s radio DJ on "Where Are You Now."
I would echo this sentiment and more to describe the pair’s latest release E Blues. All of these elements, the intricate arrangements and very personal lyrics, which are arranged and backed beautifully, so beautifully that they themselves become more like instruments rather than just mere voices. There is space and time in these songs, nothing is rushed and the layers spill out in ways that envelop the listener, creating this world around them. In this sense E Blues seemed to me like a novel in musical form. There is much to dissect and absorb here and multiple listens will have you off on different planes and appreciating the diversity of the record.
The opening track “Lil Sunflower (I Want You Back)” an eight-plus minute opus opens the record. Here we get a taste of just how intricate the layers of songwriting are and the way they incorporate so many different forms of music yet make them sound as though they were meant to be together. This collage effect only deepens as the song moves on. Contrast this to a more straightforward and powerful rock driven track like “Home” which comes in the middle of E Blues, and you really start to hear and see that you are in the hands of two very powerful craftspeople, two people who don’t let anything go that is not polished to their style of perfection.
Other powerful and dare I say “catchy” songs, though perhaps “memorable” is a more fitting term are the riveting “1365” which to me had resonances of Leonard Cohen at his most experimental and the genre bending eclectic and decade jumping musicality of “Dealin Alone.” Again though these are pieces of the larger whole of the record which flows so seamlessly from beginning to end that again one is just borne along with it, moved along by it in more ways than one.
With E Blues Jahan have taken their talents to a higher plane than even before, a place which one only gets to by challenging oneself to do better things, different things than one has done before. The efforts have paid off as E Blues sounds with every spin a classic, timeless record.
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